Thursday, June 9, 2005

Bending to the Book Meme . . .

There's some kind of "book meme" going around and Jimmy Akin got tagged. As he notes, there's a bit of a design flaw:

There is no way, given how far it's spread, that I'm going to go to who knows how many other blogs and search through their archives to see if they've already done the meme. Neither am I going to fire off tags to other bloggers irrespective of whether they may have done this meme.

Therefore, I hereby tag all the bloggers reading this who haven't already been infected by the meme.

So, I'll bite. =)

  • Total number of books I own Good question. Currently -- I'd estimate btw/ four to five hundred -- not counting boxes in storage with my parents. Every time I move I try to take it as an opportunity to consciously prune my collection, the criteria being not to hold onto anything that a) wasn't of personal value; 2) which I wouldn't read more than once 3) which was easily obtainable at a local library.

  • The last book I bought - Scheler's Critique of Kant's Ethics, by Dr. Philip Blosser. (My father's dissertation -- hence, collector's item -- and a topic of personal interest as well). In the past month: Principles of Catholic Theology by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and The DaVinci Hoax, by Carl Olson and Sandra Meisel.

  • The last book I read was . . . -- I work a full time job, so most of my reading is done on the subway commute and/or in the evening. I have this habit of working my way through several books at once, which is why you see my perpetually changing reading list in the right margin of my blog. Today I managed to actually finish The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700), by Jaroslav Pelikan -- a major accomplishment, as I'm slowly plodding my way through Pelikan's entire series on the development of Christian doctrine (A personal goal I've had since college).

  • Five books that mean a lot to me

    Like Jimmy Akin, I won't count the Bible or the Catechism -- these aren't exactly your run-of-the-mill books and ought to be 'must-reads' for every Catholic. So excluding the "Catholic essentials", here are approximately five (perhaps more, I never was good at math):

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. When I was in elementary school, before I was old enough to appreciate the rich imagery and subtle Catholic allusions of J.R.R. Tolkien, my father would read to us the stories of C.S. Lewis -- beginning with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and the rest of the 7-book series. Sometimes we would go out onto the roof, on a cool summer's evening, and he'd read by flashlight as we'd look up at the stars. A chapter a night. When I was a little older, he read Till We Have Faces, The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce, and that was my introduction to one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th Century. I never tire of re-reading Lewis.

  2. The Boy Scout Handbook - one of the best things my parents did for my brothers and I was to enroll us with the Boy Scouts of America -- specifically, Troop 234, United Methodist Church, Hickory, North Carolina. We had some excellent scoutmasters, most of them former military who knew how to take a disorderly mob of teenagers and whip us into shape with several days on the trail. I may be a bit rusty on my knots, but I'll value those years of friendship and the wealth of experiences hiking, camping, swimming, flashlight wars, snipe hunting. Of course, an indispensable part of being a Boy Scout was having your Handbook.

    Here's where I deviate from the rules, as I can't limit myself to five -- the following books are of a pair: two fiction, two philosophy, two religious.

  3. There are two books I read as a boy which captured my imagination and introduced me to many a summer at the library, lost in science fiction: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (which I still consider my favorite SF story of all time) and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian exploration of censorship, control, and the power of the written word.

    One of the highlights of my youth was being able to see Orson Scott Card -- a devout Mormon -- give a talk on religion and science fiction at Lenoir-Rhyne college. Last year I was delighted to discover his regular column at The Ornery American.

  4. There are two books I read as a college student which spurred my interest in philosophy and the world of ideas. No small feat, really, given the many distractions and worldly temptations of typical college life. They were William Barrett's Irrational Man: A Study in Existentialism - published in 1962 it is somewhat dated in his enthusiasm, but incomparable as an introduction to Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heideggar, and Sartre; and A Summa of the Summa by Peter Kreeft -- subtitled "The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica Edited and Explained for Beginners," it is precisely that.

  5. The Seven Storey Mountain. As with many great books, it was my father who recommended Thomas Merton's biography, a modern day confessional in the spirit of St. Augustine. One glance at the opening lines and I was hooked:

    On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in the year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless a prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born . . .

    Shortly thereafter I picked up The Long Loneliness, by Dorothy Day. I recall taking the book with me on a train ride, at that point a theology student on the cusp of conversion but sitting on the fence; and on the return trip, having finished the book, so moved by her life and her witness that I knew I had to make a decision, I had made a decision, I would become a Catholic.

    So together with all the other influences I credit these two great spiritual -- and distinctly American -- autobiographies of our time with having helped to usher me across the Tiber.

Following Jimmy Akin's lead, any bloggers who have not responded to this meme, consider yourself "tagged." And any readers who don't have a blog, feel free to comment: I'm always eager to hear what other people are reading. =)

* * *

A few others recently tagged by the meme: Oswald Sobrino, Carl Olson (Insight Scoop), Nathan Nelson, Pedro Vega (Vivicat), I. Shawn McElhinney (Rerum Novarum), Dave Armstrong and Carl Olson.

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